Premier League | Man City crush Arsenal to lead title race; Chelsea lost to Brentford again
The Premier League title is now Manchester City’s to lose after a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side looked like champions-in-waiting with a brutal win over the team that had led for most of the season.
Arsenal were still ahead in the standings, but by the time Erling Haaland finished the scoring in stoppage time, the Londoners’ title challenge was effectively over.
City remain two points behind the league leaders but with two games in hand look to be on course to be crowned champions for the third consecutive year.
“It’s in our hands,” Guardiola said. “Until now, I prefer Arsenal’s position because if Arsenal beat us it’s in their hands. Now is our destiny.”
After a 17 game unbeaten run, it’s hard to see City slipping from here.
Arsenal, meanwhile, may struggle to recover from such a defeat, coming off the back of three straight draws that have sapped momentum from their title charge.
Mikel Arteta’s team have exceeded all expectations by taking on the challenge so far, but the pressure appears to have taken its toll in recent weeks.
Two-goal leads were thrown away against Liverpool and West Ham, while it took a late comeback to salvage a point against last-placed Southampton last week.
That damaging streak means Arsenal need a win against City to stay in control of the title race.
“Those players deserve a lot of credit after nine and a half months of being here,” said the Arsenal manager. “And there are still five games to play. In 22 years in this country I’ve seen a lot of things and no two games are the same in this league.
“First, we have to lift up our players who suffered tonight, against an outstanding team. But we’re also an exceptional team.”
City can go top of the standings with a win over Fulham on Sunday.
The biggest test, however, has already been passed after beating Arsenal for the third time this season — including an FA Cup win.
While neither Guardiola nor Arteta would accept that this match was a title decider, it put City firmly in control and it would take a huge drop for the defending champions to hand the initiative back to Arsenal.
After struggling for consistency for the first half of the season, City have grown stronger as the campaign has gone on — to the point of seeming unstoppable at the moment.
Haaland hit his 49th goal of the season on Wednesday, while Kevin de Bruyne was at his inspirational best, scoring twice.
“Kevin is a master of assists with or without Erling,” Guardiola said. “Erling scores goals all the time with or without Kevin. But being together, when teams press very high and those balls with space at the back, they are very dangerous and used we have it.
De Bruyne put City ahead in the seventh minute, with John Stones doubling the lead in first-half stoppage time.
De Bruyne scored again in the 54th and Rob Holding pulled one back for Arsenal in the 86th before Haaland’s strike.
City remain in the hunt for a treble of trophies, having advanced to the semifinals of the Champions League and the FA Cup final.
For a long time, the Premier League seemed out of reach, given the pace set by Arsenal winning nine of their first 10 games of the season.
Despite losing to City in February, Arsenal bounced back to win seven in a row in the league.
But a combination of City’s relentless form and Arsenal’s stumbles have propelled Guardiola to a fifth title since taking over the club in 2016.
Meanwhile, Arteta will have to lift his players for the final stretch, even if the wait for a first title since 2004 looks set to continue.
“(We have to) Accept the truth and that’s the best way to move forward,” he said. “They are better than us and deserved to win the game. We need to improve and humble ourselves to accept that. To do that, you’ll be better.”
Chelsea lost again
Frank Lampard’s return to Chelsea is turning into a nightmare.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard looks devastated as Chelsea lose 2-0 to Brentford in the Premier League on April 26, 2023 | Image Credit: Reuters
It has now been five defeats from five games since he was appointed interim manager this month, with Brentford winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s own goal in the first half put Chelsea in their latest defeat and Bryan Mbeumo scored a second for the visitors in the 78th.
With Mauricio Pochettino close to being appointed permanent manager, Chelsea’s American owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital may be tempted to try to convince the Argentine coach to take over immediately, rather than waiting until the end of the season.
“This club has been through many, many good moments in recent seasons and this moment is difficult,” Lampard said. “We want a magic wand and a magic moment but it doesn’t come in football because the Premier League is tough. We have to fight for our moment.”
After 11 games without a win, Nottingham Forest climbed out of the relegation zone by beating Brighton 3-1 at the City Ground.
Steve Cooper’s side saw Brennan Johnson’s early penalty saved and then had to rally from behind after Facundo Buonanotte struck in the 38th minute.
Pascal Gross’s own goal in first-half stoppage time leveled the scores and Danilo put Forest ahead in the 68th.
Morgan Gibbs-White’s stoppage-time penalty sealed the points to give a major boost to Forest’s survival hopes.
Liverpool found form
Three straight wins have put Liverpool in contention for Europa League qualification and possibly beyond.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are up to sixth after a 2-1 comeback win over West Ham at the London Stadium.
Lucas Paqueta fired West Ham ahead in the 12th and Cody Gakpo equalized six minutes later. Joel Matip won the 67th.